September 26, 2022

I knew this day was coming. Of course I did. It’s marked on my calendar, but I often wonder why I bother. It’s not like my mind, my body, my heart need the reminder. Today marks a full decade without my Mom. The motherless decade.

I often say that time is a trickster. I mean it. Because in some ways being in that hospital room as the machines went quiet, watching life and hope fade away seems like yesterday. I remember the smells, the sounds. I remember holding my mother’s hand, my knees as they hit the cold floor. I remember begging. At the same time, it is distant to me. My mother is distant to me, and has been since her death. And so much of life has happened between then and now . . . so many things have occurred, good, bad, and dreadfully ordinary. I often call these things out to her: Mom, Anna is in university. Mom! Thomas is so sick. Mom, look at this amazing man I married. Mom, see all that Scottish “you” coming to light in Thomas? Mom, where are you? Enough time has passed that my acute grief has turned to a more gentle sort of mourning. I’ve been told that is a good thing.

One thing has never changed, though. Anyone who has lost their mother will likely understand this. There is a constant aching void. After all, up until she dies, we are never without our mothers. Our very existence begins deep within her, and our life is bound to her from the moment we are born. We often associate death with darkness, but for me, it brought light to the inextricable way I was, am, and perhaps always will be bound to my mother.

And with her death, a strange sense of duality emerged as well. Absence and presence are one and the same. Light and dark bound to each other. The sudden ability I had to feel many emotions at the same time. The disconcerting awareness of my own mortality – the fact that upon her death, I was the matriarch of the family – took shape. The fact that rarely a day passes that I don’t think of her, so hey – maybe I am not motherless?

But no. I am mother-less. Less, because I have needed her so many times. Less, because her absence brought a great deal to light within my own family system that I’ve spent a decade figuring out. Less, because she was an amazing woman who made the world better. Motherless.

I know, too, that less will only become more. The years without her will only continue to mount. Ten will become twelve will become eighteen and even a quarter of a century. Time will continue to move forward, generations will turn, and the nature and mystery of love and death will continue to beckon me, and all of us.

Someone close to me recently pondered alongside me the strange nature of love and death. She wondered aloud, “Why are we given this sort of love only to lose it?” I have no answer. I do not know. And pithy explanations are nice, but ultimately just that – pithy. Love and death defy our imagination. And perhaps that is why we often assign them to the realm of God, however we define God. All I know for now, and all I am willing to say one decade into my motherless existence is this: I love you Mom. I miss you. I love you free.